A day has become a week, and still NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sits quietly in his New York office, doing nothing as the ugliest story of the 2010 NFL Draft goes viral.
Goodell must act so this virus can stop spreading, and also because we need answers. Yeah, we. If you're like me, you want to know who to hate, because you're positive someone deserves a healthy handful of hating.
It's either Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
|Dez Bryant's NFL career begins under a cloud of controversy. (AP)|
What this saga doesn't need right now is blindly righteous indignation from fans of either franchise. So kindly shut your mouth, Cowboys fans, if you believe Dez Bryant's version of events because, well, he plays for the Dallas Cowboys. And you shut up as well, fans of the Miami Dolphins, if you're going to insist Jeff Ireland is an innocent victim simply because you agree with Ireland's place of employment. There is a time and place for partisan fandom, but that time isn't now. If your contribution to this conversation is based on loyalty to team colors, kindly sit this one out. Because you won't be helping.
As it is, this conversation is hard enough to track -- which is a shocking statement in itself considering how cut-and-dried it seemed to be a week ago when word broke that Ireland, during a pre-draft interview with Bryant, had asked if Bryant's mom was a prostitute.
The story had just started, yet it was over. Because if Ireland really did ask that question, then he deserved to be called to New York, placed on Goodell's couch of loathing and made to feel like the microscopically small man that he is. Some people have argued in the wake of this story that any and all questions are fair game when a team is deciding whether to invest millions of dollars in an employee -- but that's incorrect. There is a line that can never be crossed, a poorly defined gray line to be sure, but a line a reasonable person knows on sight. And we're looking at that line. Which means Ireland crossed it. "Is your mother a prostitute?" That's right up there with, "Have you ever been a pedophile?"
Don't tell me there's not a line. That's as stupid as Ireland's question.
Ireland's position got worse when he released an apologetic statement saying he had indeed "used poor judgment in one of the questions I asked him."
Nice of Ireland to apologize, but it was confirmation that he really had asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Thanks for being so honest, Jeff. Now get your ass up to New York and let Roger Goodell spank it.
A few days later -- which is to say, a few days ago -- a headline appeared on the home page here at CBSSports.com. We have a partnership with SI.com, and on that day we linked to a story by Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated headlined "The other side of the Dez Bryant controversy."
Here was my first thought upon seeing that headline: The other side? There is no other side. Ireland asked a horrific question, and there isn't a suitable explanation in the world. I'll read the story, but I ain't buying it ...
And then I read it. And I'll be damned -- I bought it.
If the version leaked to Trotter is true, well, I'm not mad anymore at Jeff Ireland. Just like that, my anger at him would be gone, but not really gone. It would be redirected -- at Dez Bryant. Because if Trotter's version is true, Dez Bryant maliciously, unfairly and most of all incorrectly exposed Jeff Ireland as human scum.
Here's the version from Jim Trotter:
According to (two) sources, Ireland began the meeting by asking Bryant, 21, about his upbringing and his relationship with his siblings. Then he asked what Bryant's father did for a living when Bryant was growing up. The following exchange allegedly ensued:
"My dad was a pimp."
"What did your mom do [for a living]?"
"She worked for my dad."
"Your mom was a prostitute?"
"No, she wasn't a prostitute."
If that's accurate, Ireland wasn't asking an offensive question. Bryant had just said his dad was a pimp, and his mom worked for his dad. Ireland was merely trying to clarify what Bryant had -- presumably -- just told him. If you work for a pimp, odds are you're a prostitute. Although maybe you're doing other work for him, like cutting the pimp's grass or filing his pimp paperwork. Ireland wanted to know. So he asked. Allegedly.
Now, here's the problem. At this moment, there is no way to know if that version is accurate. Bryant has stopped talking about it. When the SI.com story first came out, Bryant called it "a lie" but didn't expound. And now, he's finished talking at all. Dez Bryant says Jeff Ireland is a liar, but Dez Bryant -- and this is true irony -- is the one player in the 2010 NFL Draft who has been punished for being a liar. Bryant's the guy who was suspended in 2009 for lying to the NCAA when he was asked about his relationship with Deion Sanders. Did Bryant have a reason to lie to the NCAA? Sure he did. He was scared for his future. Does he have a reason to lie now about Jeff Ireland? Sure he does.
He's scared for his future.
Because, at this moment, Dez Bryant is one of two things. He's either a victim of psychological warfare at the cruel hands of Jeff Ireland ... or he's a manipulative, exaggerating, cruel piece of garbage who has ruined Ireland's name for absolutely no reason. If it's option A, Bryant is a sympathetic fan favorite. If it's option B, he's not sympathetic. He's detestable.
So I'm begging Roger Goodell to get to the bottom of this. Check the tape of the interview, which I'm assuming exists. Interview third-party witnesses, who must exist. Summon both men to New York and stare them down until the liar breaks.
Do something, Goodell. There are lots of people out there like me -- people with a fire hose full of fury, but with no idea where to aim it.